A new study by researchers at the University of British Columbia and the University of Victoria has shown that common levels of traffic pollution can impair human brain function in only a matter of hours.
The study shows that just two hours of exposure to diesel exhaust causes a decrease in the brain’s functional connectivity – a measure of how different areas of the brain interact and communicate with each other. The study provides the first evidence in humans, from a controlled experiment, of altered brain network connectivity induced by air pollution.
Based on the information coming from this study, people may want to think twice the next time they’re stuck in traffic with the windows rolled down… Also, make sure your car’s air filter is in good working order. If you’re biking or walking down a busy street, consider diverting to a less busy route.
While the current study only looked at the cognitive impacts of traffic-derived pollution, researchers said that other products of combustion are likely a concern.
“Air pollution is now recognized as the largest environmental threat to human health and we are increasingly seeing the impacts across all major organ systems.”
Forest fire smoke and other air pollutants can cause neurocognitive disorders but more research will need to be done.